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Mortified Narcissist, Borderline Switch Places: New Ideas for Therapy? (and Supply)

Uploaded 1/14/2024, approx. 20 minute read

Okay, Shoshanim and Shoshanot, welcome back to the Sam Vaknin Horror Show.

With your host, Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, a former visiting professor of psychology and currently on the faculty of CEAP's Commonwealth Institute for Advanced Professional Studies.

What happens when the narcissist and the borderline switch roles, switch places?

And yes, it is as ominous as it sounds.

Cue in the appropriate music.

Okay, let's delve right in.

Now you've all heard by now of narcissistic modification.

There's a lot of nonsense online about this topic.

I was the first to describe it three years ago based on work done in the 50s and especially the work of Libby much later in the 80s.

Today narcissistic modification is a buzzword and a catchphrase among self-styled experts who get it completely insanely wrong.

Narcissism modification is simply another name for public humiliation, exposure in public of the narcissist's shortcomings, mistakes, frailties and disadvantages.

This kind of public humiliation in front of meaningful peers and significant others reduces the narcissist to a whining rabble.

What modification does, it deactivates the narcissist's defense mechanisms, the set of processes and dynamics inside the narcissist that are intended to isolate the narcissist from bruising painful reality.

When modification occurs, these defenses shut down.

They are deactivated and one of the foremost, perhaps the most pivotal defense mechanism or defense process is the false self.

So modification leads to the disabling of the false self.

Consequently, the narcissist getting in touch in direct contact with reality, with the world out there.

And this is an exceedingly painful process because the narcissist's defenses are put down, shut down.

The narcissist is unable to fend off and firewall his own shame.

Inside the narcissist, there's a reservoir of early childhood shame and humiliation and rejection and pain.

And the narcissism as a compensatory mechanism is intended to repress this shame, suppress it, ignore it, dissociate it, delete it, transmute it somehow.

When modification occurs, everything shuts down, the shame erupts or re-errupts and takes over the narcissist.

At that point, the narcissist is skinless.

He is utterly vulnerable, exposed, fragile and this causes emotional dysregulation.

The narcissist suddenly gets in touch with his own positive and negative emotions.

And because he has no experience, he has had no time or opportunity to develop any strategies to deal with emotions.

And because he has never experienced positive emotions, the narcissist is overwhelmed.

Motification leads to shame.

Shame leads to other emotions.

Other emotions lead to the total disintegration falling apart of the narcissist.

He is overwhelmed.

And this is what we call emotional dysregulation.

By far the most important feature in borderline personality organization and borderline personality disorder and exactly like in borderline.

The narcissist reacts to his own emotional dysregulation by acting out.

He suddenly becomes reckless, unpredictable, capricious, dangerous, etc.

Acting out the externalization and transformation of aggression that had been hitherto directed inwards.

Suddenly this aggression is externalized and verbalized and acted upon.

And this is acting out.

Now here's the thing.

To feel shame, one requires what is called object libido.

In order to feel shame, you must recognize that there are other people out there, that they're external to you, that they're separate from you, that they have their own inner world with hopes and dreams and wishes and preferences and priorities and emotions and conditions of their own independent of you.

So the narcissist's contact with shame in the wake of narcissistic modification leads him to deploy, to use object libido.

Suddenly and thunderously and abruptly the narcissist realizes that there are other people out there that he's not alone, that he's not in control, that other people are not his extensions, that they're not internal objects, that there's no way he can manipulate them inside his mind and rearrange them in ways which are supportive of his grandiose inflated self-image.

In other words, his cognitive distortion is shattered.

Other people, because they're not subject to his control and manipulation, defy his grandiosity, undermine it, challenge it.

So shame is one problem.

The other problem is object libido.

The narcissist transitions from self-directed cathexis, self-directed emotional investment to the realization that there are people who are external objects separate from him.

And shame is when you compare yourself to other people or when you compare yourself to behaviors which are endorsed by other people, society, for example.

There's no shame without the recognition of externality and separateness of others.

There's no shame when you deny the relevance and supremacy of society and social contracts and social mores and norms.

Shame is normative.

When you live in a world where you are the law, you are a law unto yourself.

When you are setting the rules, when the shared fantasy is utterly your concoction and under your control and it displaces the external world and substitutes for it, in such a universe there's no shame.

That's precisely why narcissism is constructed this way in order to avoid the shame.

But when the defenses crumble and the fortress collapses and the invading armies of reality penetrate the inner perimeter and you are under siege of shame and guilt and self-loathing and self-hatred and self-rejection, when the bad object inside you overpowers you and you begin to believe it, then you also develop inevitably object libido.

And this is a serious danger for the narcissist's longevity, if nothing else, and mental balance.

This could drive the narcissist to psychosis, and it's not far from psychosis.

It could drive into psychosis because imagine that you wake up one morning and you discover that you are the only person in the whole world, that all other people have actually been your illusions or delusions or hallucinations. Your wife, your children, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your teachers, your everyone has been one, has been a hallucination. Imagine how you would react.

And the narcissist goes through the reverse process.

In the wake of the modification, he wakes up to discover that everyone else exists.

And he is an absence.

He's a black hole.

He has never existed.

It's pretty terrifying.

It's like waking up one morning and realizing that you're a ghost.

And so this creates borderline-like or pseudo-borderline or quasi-borderline manifestations and dynamics, most importantly, emotional dysregulation.

And the narcissist scrambles to restore the previous state.

What he does, he entrains himself.

He convinces himself by repeating all kinds of mantras and analysis and sentences and statements.

He keeps hypnotizing himself.

He keeps brainwashing himself.

He keeps training himself in order to reboot narcissistic libido and use it to replace the newly found, a newfangled object libido.

So this is very interesting because the narcissist is always successful. Narcissists in the overwhelming past majority of cases recover from modification by restoring grandiosity. In other words, narcissistic libido again takes over and object libido is again disabled, the activator shut off. And again, people around the narcissist become nothing but internal objects, mental representations, introjects, disembodied voices. How does a narcissist succeed to transition from a brief moment of awakening back to his fantastic space, his paracorsum? How does he affect this transition he uses in training? Now, this is very interesting therapeutically.

It means perhaps that we can use in training as a tool of therapy rather than an instrument of torturous manipulation and brainwashing.

Perhaps in training can be used in order to replace extreme object libido, object libido which is dysfunctional, object libido that is harmful, for example, in people pleasing or in codependency, object libido in codependency in people pleasing is harmful.

It's too much, it dominates the individual, it's over-winning and domineering and actually object libido in CODEPENDENCY AND PEOPLE PLEASING SITUATIONS AND SO ON, DISPLACES COMPLETELY NARCISSISTIC LIBIDO AND LEADS TO SELF-HARM AND SELF-SACRIFICE.

So perhaps we could use in training in therapeutic settings in order to restore a modicum, some amount of narcissistic libidin, so as to balance the excessive object libidin, object libidin in codependency and so on.

Perhaps excessive object libidin is sometimes also common in borderline personality disorder.

All I'm saying is the narcissist successfully recovers from modification by rebooting his narcissistic libidin and his cognitive distortions and his grandiosity.

That is not necessarily a bad thing because the alternative is suicide.

Similarly, in clinical settings and in other diagnoses such as dependent personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, all kinds of people pleasing situations, perhaps we could do the same to a much lesser extent.

We don't want these people to become narcissists but halfway, a quarter way, somehow subdue and repress the excessive object libidin by igniting and booting an app of narcissistic libidin.

We have a lot to learn here.

So this is a situation where the narcissist temporarily flashing the pen becomes a borderline and then and trains himself into re-acquiring his pathological narcissism and of course when I say he's, it's a her, when I say he, it's a she, get over it.

Everything I say applies to both men and women.

Half of all narcissists are women.

Now, the mirror image, the mirror picture occurs in borderline personality disorder.

Intimidant, real or imagined, anticipated or actual, abandonment and engulfment, enmeshment, merger infusion.

So these two conditions, the absence of the external object or the overwhelming domineering, subsuming presence of the external object, too much external object, no external object.

These two poles of the spectrum, the borderline reacts with extreme anxiety and that's why we say that borderline has the twin anxieties, engulfment anxiety and abandonment anxiety.

So when the borderline experiences a loss of the love object or when the borderline's love object takes over the borderline, subsumes her, consumes her, in both cases the borderline reacts with anxiety, emotional dysregulation, decompensation and acting out exactly the process the narcissist goes through when the narcissist is exposed to narcissistic modification.

We can therefore say that abandonment anxiety and engulfment anxiety are facets of borderline modification because the exact identical psychodynamic path, the exact same reactions, the exact same mechanisms, the exact same processes occur with the narcissist in narcissistic modification and with the borderline when she experiences abandonment or engulfment.

So why not say that abandonment and engulfment trigger borderline modification in borderline personality disorder.

In the case of the borderline, her experience of borderline modification leads to the emergence of narcissistic defenses.

The borderline becomes dysempathic, narcissistic.

She transitions to a self-state of secondary psychopath.

In the best case she becomes a covert borderline but mostly she becomes psychopathic or even malignant narcissistic.

So again that's a mirror image.

When the narcissist is exposed to narcissistic modification, he transitions to a borderline personality organization or borderline state.

When the borderline experiences borderline modification, she transitions into a narcissistic psychopathic state.

They are mirror images of each other.

One could even say that borderline is the mirror image of narcissism.

It's a form of reverse narcissism, if you wish.

In the case of the borderline, the restoration of the borderline state hinges on guilt and shame.

Remember that with a narcissist, when the narcissist experiences modification and clinically becomes indistinguishable from a borderline, the narcissist restores his narcissism, his grandiosity, his shared fantasy.

He restores his narcissism and he does, he restores his narcissism by entraining himself, convincing himself of his own grandiosity.

Now the borderline does exactly the opposite of course because the borderline is the mirror image of the narcissist.

Acting out in the case of the borderline causes her to experience shame and guilt which involves as you recallobject libido.

So her experience of shame and guilt restore her ability to interact with other people as external and separate to her.

In short, her experience of shame and guilt eliminate her narcissistic defenses, suppress her narcissistic libido and enhance her object libido.

So look at the mirror image.

The narcissist's self-entraining causes him to suppress his new object libido and substitute for it with narcissistic libido, therefore becoming again a narcissist, a full fledged narcissist, grandiose while with a borderline the modification leads to the experience of shame and guilt which allows her to restore her object libido and suppress her narcissistic libido and then she becomes a borderline again.

And so here we have another therapeutic hint and this time for NPD.

The previous therapeutic hint was that we may be able to use entraining to transition people with borderline personality disorder, codependence, people pleasers, maybe we could use entraining to transition them to make them become a bit more narcissistic, render them a bit more narcissistic which is good for them.

They're not narcissistic enough but with a borderline exactly the reverse we can perhaps use shame and guilt to transition people with narcissism.

That's we can use shame and guilt to transition them to object libido to a more borderline like state.

So transition the borderline to narcissism and transition the narcissist to a borderline halfway of course not fully.


Is a major therapeutic improvement and indeed this is the core insight in my cold therapy.


Now one last comment.

All these hinges in the case of the narcissist on narcissistic supply and in the case of the borderline on her ability to process shame and guilt and overcome somehow narcissistic defenses which again rely on narcissistic supply.

So the economy of narcissistic supply is crucial in these cycles.

It is important to understand there's no such thing as narcissistic supply without self-supply.

The first stage in any cycle involving narcissistic supply is self-supply.

When the narcissist acquires external sources of supply, when the narcissist converts other people into sources of narcissistic supply, this is preceded always by a phase of self-supply.

The narcissist's grandiose fantasy renders input from others narcissistic supply.

So it is the shared fantasy that kind of converts input from the outside and feedback from other people into narcissistic supply.

The information of the data that comes from other people and the narcissist absorbs as a sponge would.

This information and data are processed within the shared fantasy. They are cognitively distorted by grandiosity and they only then constitute narcissistic supply.

But this cannot be done without a previous phase of self-supply.

When the narcissist is mortified, depressed, extremely injured, doesn't have a shared fantasy, or fails to maintain it somehow in all these cases, the narcissist is unable to supply himself, is unable to see himself as godlike and perfect and because he is unable to see himself as godlike and perfect, information, data, feedback, input from other people will not be perceived by the narcissist as convincing.

Let me give you an example.

If the narcissist is depressed or mortified, it's very difficult for the narcissist to consider himself as a towering genius or irresistibly handsome. It's impossible because he's depressed, he's anxious, he's mortified.

So he self-castigates, he self-criticizes, he self-rejects, he self-negates, he self-loathes, you know, and he self-destructs and self-defeats.

So he doesn't feel that he's godlike. He doesn't feel superior. He doesn't feel perfect. He doesn't feel brilliant. So never mind, never mind how many people are going to tell the narcissist, you are genius, you are irresistible, drop-dead gorgeous, you are, none of this is going to register.

None of this is going to register.

Narcissists will perceive these kinds of sentences as fake or low grade supply, which is unable to trigger the mechanism of self-regulation inside the narcissist, self-regulation especially of sense of self-worth.

Therefore self-supply catalyzes narcissistic supply.

The narcissist has to believe his own confabulations, his own fantasies, his own inflated fantastic self-image and self-perception. He has to believe this.

He has to be convinced that they are factual, that they are real, that they are fact-based. He has to adhere to these tenets.

He has to convert himself first. He has to entrain himself first.

And only when this phase of self-supply is successful, only then can the narcissist convert statements by other people into narcissistic supply.

So only if the narcissist believes himself to be a genius is he going to believe others telling him that he is a genius.

If the narcissist for some reason reached a conclusion that he is not a genius because he has been mortified or exposed or I don't know what, then it's going to be impossible for him to believe others who keep telling him that he is a genius.

The narcissist perceives himself as ugly because he has been publicly humiliated and rejected by a woman, let's say.

It's going to be impossible for him to believe that he is handsome and irresistible, even if a hundred other women tell him this.

The foundation of self-supply, convincing himself of his own grandeur and grandiosity and supremacy and brilliance and perfection.

This is a precondition for the very ability to identify narcissistic supply and absorb it.

You could conceive of self-supply as a kind of filtrative membrane, a membrane that filters information from the outside.

And when the membrane pours, when the pores in the membrane are open, narcissistic supply can come in.

But when these pores are closed in the wake of modification, injury, then no amount of external supply will be able to penetrate.

The narcissist will wallow and shrivel and wither internally because he won't be able to absorb narcissistic supply, never mind how abundantly available it is.

This is very crucial.

And this is one of the dynamics in the transition from narcissism to borderline in the wake of narcissistic modification and from borderline to narcissism in the wake of borderline modification.

In both cases, there is a disruption in the ability to process narcissistic supply or borderline supply, which is kind of narcissistic supply, because there has been an undermining or destruction of one's self-image.

And this destruction is a main cause for the isolation, the schismic reaction to narcissism, to modification both in both narcissism and borderline.

It's an attempt to avoid the world because the world has nothing to offer, cannot offer supply.

And gradually these capacities of self-supply have to be reconstructed.

The narcissist reconstructs self-supply by entraining himself, self-entraining.

The borderline reconstructs narcissistic supply by reattaching to other people via enhanced object libido.

Okay, it's been quite a mouthful and a lot to ponder.

Feel free to watch and rewatch this video until you get all the topics clear.

And I will see you next time.


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